The processes which contribute to the ozone evolution in the high latitude northern lower stratosphere are evaluated using a three dimensional model simulation and ozone observations. The model uses winds and temperatures from the Goddard Earth Observing System Data Assimilation System. The simulation results are compared with ozone observations from three platforms: the differential absorption lidar (DIAL) which was flown on the NASA DC-8 as part of the Vortex Ozone Transport Experiment; the Microwave Limb Sounder (MLS); the Polar Ozone and Aerosol Measurement (POAM II) solar occultation instrument. Time series for the different data sets are consistent with each other, and diverge from model time series during December and January. The model ozone in December and January is shown to be much less sensitive to the model photochemistry than to the model vertical transport, which depends on the model vertical motion as well as the model vertical gradient. We evaluate the dependence of model ozone evolution on the model ozone gradient by comparing simulations with different initial conditions for ozone. The modeled ozone throughout December and January most closely resembles observed ozone when the vertical profiles between 12 and 20 km within the polar vortex closely match December DIAL observations. We make a quantitative estimate of the uncertainty in the vertical advection using diabatic trajectory calculations. The net transport uncertainty is significant, and should be accounted for when comparing observations with model ozone. The observed and modeled ozone time series during December and January are consistent when these transport uncertainties are taken into account.